Oregon Coast Road Trip
Rarely losing sight of the Pacific Ocean during its 340-mi (545-km) jaunt along the Oregon coast, US-101 winds past rockbound coast, ancient forests, and innumerable towns and villages. While the region also has its share of strip towns and places where the timber boom went bust, the beach loops, historic restorations, and more state parks per mile than any place in the country soften its few hard edges. Every 20 mi (32 km) or so, you’ll pass through attractive, if moderately touristy, towns populated by at most a few thousand people. As a general rule, it’s the mileage between these hamlets that explains why most people visit: to take in one of the most dramatic meetings of rock and tide in the world.
Starting in the north along the Columbia River at historic Astoria, one of the oldest settlements in the western United States, the route winds along the ocean past the different beachfront hamlets of Seaside and Cannon Beach before edging slightly inland through the rich dairy lands of Tillamook County. Midway along, the popular vacation spots of Lincoln City, Newport, and Florence form the most developed corridor along the coast, but it’s still easy to reach unpeopled stretches, especially at the remarkable Oregon Dunes stretching to the south. The dunes end abruptly at the heavily industrial port of Coos Bay, beyond which the natural beauty returns with a string of state parks and the diverse coastal towns of Bandon, Port Orford, Gold Beach, and Brookings.
Recommended Beaches on the Oregon Coast
- Cannon Beach is where you’ll find the ever-popular, photogenic Haystack Rock.
- Oswald West State Park to the south of Cannon Beach is home to driftwood-laden and surfer-friendly Short Sands Beach
- Three Capes Scenic Loop provides access to spectacular beaches, including the one at Cape Kiwanda.
Top Sights on the Oregon Coast
- Fort Clatsop National Memorial is the centerpiece of the sprawling multistate Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.
- Ecola State Park to the north of Cannon Beach offers scenic hiking along the Oregon Crest Trail and a pullover for one of the most photographed views on the coast.
- Three Capes Scenic Route a forty-mile loop to the coast that in winter and spring is a prime place to view passing gray whales
- Dune Country are 50 miles of oceanfront dunes that include the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
- Gold Beach is the spot to fish during salmon season or take a jet-boat tour up the Rogue River
Oregon Coast Road Trip Travel Map